For students in my ‘Meaning of Monsters’ course, the time has come for your
first Blogpost of the semester. In this initial trial run, I want you to do a
few simple things to get you thinking about the assigned reading for 1/30, and
also to do some additional work with the important “monster theory” of Jeffrey
Jerome Cohen. More specifically, I’d like you to do two specific things
(which should amount to at least two robust paragraphs overall):
1) In his chapter on “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman makes
some interesting comments about the (supposed) monsters of the ancient world,
particularly from the perspective of the Greeks. He includes a variety of
examples of human groups (from India and Ethiopia) who are (mis)understood by
ancient authors as having mysterious, monstrous qualities. He also offers
some analysis of these beings, and draws some interesting conclusions about
them. For part one of your Blogpost, then, I’d simply like you to offer a
specific quotation from Friedman’s discussion that you feel is especially
interesting or important. Then, discuss it by explaining what you find so
intriguing about your chosen quote? Why does it seem so noteworthy as a
window into the culture (and monsters) of ancient Greece and Rome (or India and
2) For part two of your response, I’d like to do a bit more work with Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s crucially important essay “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”. Here, I’d like you to apply ONE of Cohen’s theses to ONE monster outlined by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. If you apply and use Cohen’s ideas as a way to explore or understand Pliny’s varied discussion of monsters found both on land and in the oceans, what
connections or ideas arise by using Cohen’s model? The point here is to
further enhance your understanding of Cohen’s complex essay by working closely with it and using it to help you understand another complex piece of monstrous writing.
I’ll be curious to see what you all have to say for this first Blogpost of
1) Pliny’s reason for cataloging all these monstrous races is summarized as “…he has a Roman tolerance for and joy in human diversity, and seems in Book 7 to take a special pleasure in describing the monstrous races of men.” This quote implies that the reasons for making this catalog are not because of fear, but because of curiosity. This list of monsters is not a warning, but a marvel of strange and different creatures.
2) One of the monsters defined by Pliny is the Blemmyae. They were defined as having no head or neck; their face being on their chests. Of Cohen’s theses, the one that can be applied the most to Blemmyae is Thesis III: The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis. This thesis talks about how monsters cannot be easily categorized, that they defy natural order. A headless humanoid is an apt example of a bizarre monster.
In the chapter, “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman states a quote that says, “In some cases one race was divided into several. In others two or more were combined.” I feel that this quote is very interesting because to make a monster you can just take on thing from a culture or race to go with the monster or you can take the whole culture or race that the monster may go against. For example, you may take one thing that the race/culture does and that could be what the monster doesn’t like. You could also have a monster that just may not like one race for everything that they may do and not just because the dance a certain way or whatever that culture may do. I think it is something that is noteworthy because it shows that you really need to understand where the monster is coming from and not just assume the monster is doing something so go against one culture.
The Pandae or Macrobii seems to be an interesting monster. I think the Pandae can relate to Cohen’s thesis number 2. Cohen’s second thesis says that the monsters’ body is both corporal and incorporeal. I think the Pandae and this thesis go hand and hand because even though they seem to show age the opposite way we humans do we both still show age. Our hair tends to get lighter or white when we age but the Pandae’s hair tends to darken as they age and are born with white hair. Along with that, they also relate to the human body because they have fingers and toes. They may not have as many as we do, they still have them.
A quote from John Block Friedman’s “The Plinian Races” that stood out to me states that “His Stoicism led him to believe that everything in nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientist tries to find in the most ordinary thing as well as wonders.” This means that Pliny’s stoic nature is the reason why he is interested in monsters and other unique races.The the word “Stoicism” is capitalized, differentiating it from “stoicism.” Stoicism is an Ancient Greek philosophy that teaches logic and nature. Pliny has had practice with this philosophy, unlike the average human, making it easier for him to open his mind to cultures and beings that are strange to him. This quote is important because it proves that in order to properly study monsters, we should put aside our own judgement and examine them like a scientist would to an animal.
One of the monsters that stood out to me was the Panotii. The Panotii are a race formed from the ears of the Ctesias Pandae. This reminded me of the Seventh Theses, “The Monster Stands at the Threshold of Becoming.” The Panotii were created as a direct result of the Ctesias Pandae’s fears. The Panotti being shy and flying away from visitors is a representation of how the people are afraid of newcomers. The people unknowingly created the monster themselves.
Many factors contribute to the creation of monsters in society; however, one that appealed to me the most from “The Plinian Races” was the “Errors of perception on the part of early travelers.” These “other fabulous peoples” that existed in their culturally sounded region were discovered by Pliny, who had a different perception of how they appeared, such as the Blemmyae, who were, in fact, “black, migratory Ethiopians.” Yet, in Pliny’s eyes, the Blemmyae were men whose faces were on their chests and did not have heads nor necks. It brought to my attention how such an “error” could create a species of monsters because they resided beyond the geographic boundaries of “normality.” The Pandae, for instance, fall under Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. Their physical appearance, including natural-born white hair, “eight fingers and toes, and ears so large that they cover the body to the elbow,” challenge the societal norm. They are as Cohen describes monsters: “difference made flesh.” Their “differences” are extra fingers and large ears. Even so, other physical aspects between humans and the Pandae are not as different. We highlight their “differences” to make ourselves feel “normal.”
Many different “monster” races are mentioned in Friedman’s discussion. He describes how a handful of races consequently turn into fifty more through misinterpretation, whether it be an error in translation or a simple need for the people to create something bigger and better, more monstrous than the last. In theory, these legends would most likely be cast aside as fiction, nothing more than fantastical stories as people went on to travel the world and realize these “monstrous” races they’d created did not exist as legend said. However, while some of these races did, in fact, exist, those that did not continued to be discussed as fact. Friedman gives two reasons for this, the first being that the Plinian people had a “psychological need” for these monstrous races they’d created to exist. He follows this statement with a quote I found interesting: “Their appeal…was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and – very important – fear of the unknown.” People like monsters, and they have for centuries, as proven here. They need monsters to exist. The Greek and Roman people liked the idea that there were “monsters” out there that existed to make them feel normal.
Interestingly, this corresponds with one of Cohen’s “Seven Theses” in his “Monster Culture” essay, in thesis IV – “Fear of the monster is really a kind of desire.” People are fascinated by the monsters described in Friedman’s essay, or else they wouldn’t have been as popular as they were. The elaboration in the monster’s physical appearance further proves this point. The “Straw-drinker” people, who are described as noseless and mouthless, are thought to have been a Himalayan tribe that drank beer by sending a straw past the layer of cracked barley to get to the alcohol underneath. Since they were a different, “barbarian” culture, combined with this practice and the thought of consuming beer to be reprehensible, this culture would have easily been made to be a “monstrous” people. The overlooking of the fact that they do, in fact, have noses and mouths like the Greeks and Romans, partnered with the disgust for them and their practices, makes them monstrous, and the defining of them as monsters is what reaches those that have not seen them in person. Having them be a people group like the Greeks and Roman would not have been nearly as interesting, so travelers took this key characteristic and amplified it to be a different creature entirely.
1. As stated in the chapter, “Strabo’s and even Ptolemy’s works show us that describing a country and its people resulted in a genre of travel writing that was highly enjoyable as literature but factually a bit suspect”. This quote stood out to me due to the potentially dangerous and hurtful affects it could have on a society. If those writing the works were putting out information that was no always necessarily true, people will have misconceptions in their heads about certain countries and races. If someone reads something about a specific country that is negative, they might go their whole lives looking down on people from that country despite the information not even being true. This probably greatly impacted the society of the time because people were reading information that wasn’t always true.
2. One monster described were the Hippopodes who were said to have “horses’ hooves instead of feet, live near the Baltic”. This description immediately made me think of Thesis IV, “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”. This thesis describes a monster as “the other”, mainly meaning that they have a certain quality or trait that would deem they different from an average person. For the Hippopodes, they have feet that are different from the average person. I find it interesting that these people were labeled monsters just for having different feet from an average human despite all other qualities seemingly being “normal”. It shows how judgmental and shallow mankind can sometimes be.
In the text we read titled “The Plinian Races” “Two Greeks later did so, and their accounts of an India populated by marvelous races of men conveyed Hellenes, and later Romans, something akin to the wonder of Homer’s Cyclops and Lotus Eaters.” (Pg5) it is said that the Greeks who traveled to india came back with the ideas of “ Homer’s Cyclops and lotus eaters”. I find this interesting because it goes on further stating scholars wonder if “Ctesias” that brought these stories to light ever traveled there at all. Making me think of the theses we talked about in class, theses 6 “The fear of the monster is really a kind of desire”. People who wanted to travel and wanted to see new things created stories like this to make it seem like they had been there when in reality they may have never been there at all but desired having a story to tell about a at the time an unknown land.
In the other test we read “Pliny the Elder’s Natural History”, a line that stood out to me was, “By the term “dragon,” we may suppose that Pliny refers to some of the great serpents which exist in hot climates, and are of such vast size, that they might perhaps be able to perform some of the exploits here ascribed to the dragon.” This shed some light on the topic of dragons we discussed in class on Tuesday. I find dragon culture very interesting because in different cultures they have different characteristics. Comparing the dragon to a serpent or snake in this quote made sense because the dragon we looked at in class that had no wings and was more for tales about the water or underground.
The quote that stood out to me from “The Plinian Races” is “Errors of perception on the part of early travelers could be responsible for other fabulous peoples.” Humans tend to label anything unknown scary, which could be the reason why people were unnecessarily labeled as a monster. This quote stood out to me because it emphasizes the fact that if one person sees someone different, it could affect how everyone else in that community views that person. When these monsters were created the earth was still not entirely explored, which is why certain groups of people were deemed as monsters. This quote also applies to modern times. Many people are quick to label other groups before they have gotten to know them. This causes information that is wrong to be dispersed into the population, which causes rumors to start. This quote gives a window into ancient culture because it explains why ancient monsters are like certain groups. It also gives us insight into how other monsters were discovered.
I will be using number VI, “Fear of the Monster is a Kind of Desire” from “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”. I will be applying it to the dragon mentioned in Pliny the Elders Natural History. This specific dragon is mentioned in book 8 chapter 22. In previous chapters of the book snakes or serpents are called dragons. This chapter tells the story of a boy who had a dragon and he grew attached to it. The father of the boy feared the dragon and he left it in the desert. When the boy, Thoas, was attacked the dragon recognized his voice and saved him. This dragon which was probably a snake showed that monsters are not to be feared. Number VI in Monster Culture talks about curiosity and how humans want to go against what society deems as “normal”. Thoas made a bond with what was considered a monster and it ended up saving him. It was not normal for a boy to want to have a monster, which most likely contributed to his father getting rid of the dragon.
1) A quote from Friedman is about the Amazon women. This stood out to me because they are described as warrior women, and the only thing out of the ordinary was the fact that they would remove their right breast as to draw their bow more powerfully. They classified these women as “noble monsters”. The fact that they just slightly differ from the societal norms deems them worthy of the title “monster”, which has an ugly and evil connotation. There is a similar issue with the Speechless, Gesturing Men. These are people who do not speak and communicate through gestures. Again, slightly differing from the norms. Today, we recognize people may use gestures because of a medical condition or disability, and would not think of these men as monsters. The fact that a small drift from what man is used to is suddenly shun-worthy shows how society has grown and educated since the days of Alexander the Great.
2) The Sciopods are one legged people with an unusually large foot. This connects to Thesis 4, the monster dwells at the gates of difference. We see this quality is different than what we expect (two legs, proportional feet) and ostracize. It also mentions these people are extremely swift, which connects to thesis 2, the monster always escapes. Knowing the implications of interaction, they adapt to become easy to get away and spend much time lounging in rivers.
1.) While there was a plethora of important information sprinkled throughout Friedman’s article, “The Plinian Races”, a comment that peaked my interest was his statement, “Their appeal to medieval men was based on such factors as fantasy, escapism, delight in the exercise of the imagination, and-very important- fear of the unknown” It was interesting to realize how much a society or culture is influenced by fear, and how new creations or monsters stem from these. When humans aren’t able to identify something, they try to make up a rational idea in their head on what it might be, in order to make sense of the unknown. This quote specifically is crucial to our course in order to better comprehend the fact that monsters can come from anywhere and be anything. If monsters are created by the imagination of humans, then is humanity the true abhorrent creature?
2.) In Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, he discusses many different creatures that could be classified as monsters. Using Cohens Seven Theses, it is easy to identify what could or could not potentially be a monster. An example of one of these monsters would be the widely discussed dragon. Using the fourth thesis, “The monster is the harbringer of category crisis.”, was helpful. The dragons size makes it extremely unusual. In Chapter 13, Dragons, the serpent was described as being thirty or more feet in length. This monster fails to fit into one specific category because its very unusual for a being to be this massive in size. The dragon also takes many different forms, and can even be aquatic. The point being, the dragons inability to fit into a certain category helps us to identify it as a monster.
1) The quote that interested me the most in Friedman’s text was “Races also multiplied through what we might call a creative misunderstanding on their name”. The text then goes on to list an example about the Sciopods and Cyclops. The quote and example were interesting to me because it shows how easy it is for us, as humans, to create a “monster”. Through a mistranslation of a word, an entire new monster was created, with it’s own original lore and appearance. If anything, it shows the creativity of humans and how we can create memorable stories, characters, and creatures out of nothing but a word.
2) The monster that interested me from the Pliny reading was the “catoblepas” of Ethiopia. I relate this monster to Cohen’s 4th thesis, how the monster embodies an “other”. This specific monster is said to kill men just by looking at them and is therefore quite dangerous. The Friedman reading also mentioned many other races and monsters that come from Ethiopia. The country of Ethiopia seems to be “the other” to the ancient Greeks; it is a land that the average citizen probably hasn’t been to and therefore is mysterious and alien to them. The many unknowns about this land lead to authors populating it with monsters such as the deadly catoblepas.
Though Pliny gave many (largely anecdotal) accounts on the monsters of the world, on page 8 of The Plinian Races, Friedman says that Pliny “seems to take a special pleasure in describing the monstrous races of men”. It is said that Pliny was more tolerant of human diversity due to his Roman heritage, but I think his interest in the races of men comes strictly from the abundance of material. At the time, the world they inhabited was filled with a wide range of people, stemming from various backgrounds and heritages. So while many historians may have been interested in grand beasts and mythical creatures, Pliny preferred, instead, to study the most abundant “monsters”. He could simply study the people of other cultures, which would inherently be wildly different than those people around him, and therefore could be seen as monstrous.
An interesting “monster” listed among the Plinian Races is the Speechless Men. Thesis IV (The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference) shows us that those who differ from our understanding of normalcy can sometimes be considered monstrous. These Speechless Men communicate not with their mouth or voice, but instead with gestures and signals. At the time, this probably seemed incredibly alien to whoever had first encountered them, and thus gave deemed them monsters. But given our modern knowledge, my guess is that this was simply an indigenous tribe of people who developed their own form of communication by using their hands (similar to that of sign language today). But due to the lack of understanding between people, this communication came of as strange and foreign
1). The quote that I found the most interesting from “The Phinian Races,” by John Block Friedman is “Still other variants occurred when an unfamiliar name was misunderstood and passed on in a new form. ” It is interesting how new “species” were created by a simple misunderstanding from a name. A simple mispronunciation or misspell gave a new idea to create new “monsters” or people with “monstrous” disformities (different from common people). It seems so noteworthy as a window into the culture of ancient Greece and Rome because it lets us see how many of the monsters in their cultures were created from others.
2). The fourth thesis from “Monster Culture (Seven Theses)” By Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s, “The monster dwells at the gates of difference,” was most commonly seen in this reading. All the monsters were different from each other in a unique way. They were even known for their own little differences. It is displayed in many of the descriptions from the different species and some are even drawn and described with both sexes (male and female genitals).
1) The specific quote that stands out to me from “The Plinian Races” by John Block Friedman is “-fear of the unknown. If the monstrous races had not existed, it is likely that people would’ve created them.” I found this quote to be very interesting in regards to how us as human beings cope with the unknown. We try to control it by creating these fears that might not actually pose as a threat to us. A monster is only feared by humans because of the fact that it is unknown, and that is what the author is trying to say. This is true to the people of Ancient Greece and Rome who saw other races as being “monstrous” because they weren’t familiar to them. They are being introduced to an outside realm contrary to what they have previously known.
2)”Garamantes”, one of the monsters mentioned in “The Pilinian Races”, are described as people within the Ethiopian race who do not practice marriage. I related this to thesis IV in Cohen’s “Monster Theory”, which is “The monster dwells at the Gates of difference.” I found it to be very interesting that someone who did not practice marriage was considered a monster in another culture’s eyes. This says a lot about the time period of Ancient Greece and Rome. If you weren’t doing what was considered “socially acceptable” during this time, you would be looked down upon.
in the “The Plinian Races” John Block Friedman makes multiple interesting claims in his writing piece but the quote that stuck out the most was “His Stoicism led him to believe that everything in nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientist tries to find in the most ordinary thing as well as wonders.” This quote protruded itself from the rest of the article because it gives a brief summary of the article in a quick sentence. The way I interpreted the quote was they collected the vast information abnormal wonders of the world taking advantage of the unknown for ordinary people to be in awe upon first glance of the “horrendous monster”.
In Cohen’s 7 Thesis he explains one as Fear of the Monster is Really a kind of desire. This thesis I feel can be put into all these monster situation because all people living as one of the ordinary fear and crave the extraordinary for entertainment and curiosity purposes. One monster that I feel would interact well with this thesis is Anthropophagi (“Man Eater”). Although the harsh title it peaks curiosity and interest if there could be such a creature that over powers man.
1.The quote that I have found that I feel is especially interesting or important is ,“There seems to have been a need for amplitude and diversity among the early chroniclers of the monstrous races and the tendency was to take a race with several unusual attributes and remove one to form an entirely new type” (Block,p.g. 23). I found this quote intriguing because it talked about how they are trying to make a different monster of all the monsters they knew already. This seems to be noteworthy as a window into the culture of ancient Greece and Rome because they know of making new ideas about monsters.
2.One monster outlined by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History is Chapter 13 called Dragons, which is close to the number seven theses called the Monster Stands at the Threshold. I chose this because the chapter was talking about how many people had different thoughts about dragons. This works with the seven theses because of how we created these dragons and other monsters and how they are lurking behind the doors. The chapter said that there was a different variation about the dragons from many different people around the world. This chapter makes me understand these more because it is showing an example of how people are talking about dragons.
1. In John Block Friedman’s chapter “The Plinian Races”, Pliny the Elder catalogues the “monsters” identified by Ctesias, Megasthenes, Alexander the Great, and others of third and fourth century Greece, as they explore India and Ethiopia. One quote from the chapter the stuck out describes the Pandae saying, “They did not need eight fingers and giant ears to be memorable, since they were already known for limited childbirth and white-haired children.” The quote to me basically describes humans identify what is different and monstrous. They attempt to oversimplify an object or topic down to what is deemed as a key feature like how “zombies are undead and eat brains”. Humans typically also remember something as it was when originally presented like with Dracula’s vampires verses Twilight’s. A final note is humans will always grasp to what is seen as more inhuman when describing a “monster” such as how the Amazons are monstrous for cutting off their right breast and not needing a man in their life.
2. Volume 9 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History talks about a variety of sea monsters such as the giant balæna . While the monster is seldom described except for it being a large fish, there is still enough evidence to easily apply Theses 5: The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible from Cohen’s Monster Theory. The ocean let alone its inhabitants are an incredible unknown to humans even today, which means undiscovered or uncommon creatures of the deep can easily be prescribed as monsters.
One quote from Friedman’s excerpt that caught my interest was “The books, however limited and biased…resulted for [one of] the first time[s]…a considerable increase in Greek knowledge about India.” (Page 6) The reason I found this quote so interesting is because I think it really highlights the fact that the ignorance of the average Grecian made it much easier to conceive of the monsters described by men such as Ctesis or Megasthenes. Since the style of describing geographical locations was often more romantic and hyperbolic than realistic, and so little was known of far away locations such as India or Ethiopia, it would have been much easier to believe in the monsters described in ancient texts.
Androgini was one type of monster described in Friedman’s chapter that I instantly associated with one of Cohen’s theses, being the third: The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis. The Androgini is described as having both female and male reproductive organs, and possess the ability to both bear children and inseminate. This quite obviously demonstrates Cohen’s Theses III as this creature fails to conform to one category: male or female. They are considered “disturbing hybrids” (Cohen) and the fact that they are so different and androgynous cause discomfort in many, lending them their monstrous quality.
1. One of the monstrous races that stuck out to me was the sciopods from India. “One-legged but extremely swift; they spend their days lying on their backs protecting their heads from the sun with a single great foot” (Friedman 18). From a Greek perspective at that point of time, most of them have probably never heard of any yoga practices, the sciopods were most likely Hindus practicing yoga in India. From a very off perspective, these sciopods protecting their heads from the sun with a single large foot may be Hindus practicing different yoga positions. These monstrous features show us the cultural differences.
2. Thesis four from Cohen’s Monster Culture is the monster dwells at the gates of difference. Into my own words I thought this thesis was about how the difference of norms can make others seem like monsters. The Apple-Smellers who were mouthless men who lived by smell alone, could have well been a “Himalayan tribe who sniffed onions to ward off mountain sickness” (Friedman 25). The cultural differences or norms could of made this Himalayan tribe look like monsters to this traveler. Why are the sniffing apples (onions)? The mind only wanders…
1) In John Block Friedman’s “The Plinian Races”, many quotes stuck out to me. The one that caught my attention the most was “Even the improbable-sounding Hippopodes may have had a basis in fact. A tribe exists today in the Zambesi valley on the border of Southern Rhodesia among whose members ‘lobster-claw syndrome’ has become an established characteristic. This condition, which is hereditary, possibly via a single mutated gene, results in feet that are divided into two giant toes instead of five smaller ones…”. I found this quote interesting because it makes a personal connection. I find it crazy that the monster is based on an actual disease that causes these mutations, maybe making the people who have this gene a “monster”.
2) One monster that stood out to me was Astomi or Apple Smellers. They are mouthless men that are hairy all over and wear soft cotton or downs that they obtained from leaves of trees. They live by smell, they don’t eat or drink. This monster supports Cohens third thesis that a monster is a harbinger of a category crisis. You cant really place the Astomi in any category. Is he considered a man? Is he considered an animal?
1) A specific quote that I happened to find somewhat interesting is where Friedman quotes Pliny stating, “We marvel at elephants shoulders carrying castles… at the rapacity of tigers and the manes of lions, whereas really Nature is to be found in her entirety nowhere more than in her smallest creations. I consequently beg my readers not to let their contempt for many of these creatures to lead them also to condemn to scorn what I relate about them, since in the contemplation of Nature nothing can possibly be deemed superfluous.” I enjoyed this quote a lot due to the sheer nature of how monsters can be perceived as these beings of excessive power over most creatures and how others feel it’s unnatural when in reality nothing in nature is noted as excessive or overbearing. It also creates a window into the culture of ancient Greece and Rome by showing how monsters were perceived back then, as in freaks of nature or natural oddities.
2) One of the monsters from Pliny’s work that I personally found interesting was the Donestre. The Donestre (which means divine in their tongue) pretends to speak the language of any traveler they meet and claim to know their relatives. They proceed to kill the traveler and then mourn over their head. The Donstre easily represents the fifth theses known as, “The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible.” I believe this connection works due to the nature of the Donestre where they tend to wait for travelers to come to them in the outskirts of populated regions, in opposed to attacking directly like most monsters.
1.) A specific quotation that stuck out to me in John Block Friedman’s “The Plinian Races” was the following: ” His Stoicism led him to believe that everything made by nature was intended to have a purpose, which the natural scientist tries to find in the most ordinary things as well as in wonders” (Friedman 8). Stoicism is the patience of handling pain without expressing emotions in response. I think this quote is interesting because it guides the reader into the rest of the chapter, claiming that the reason behind the interest of monsters and unusual creatures stems from the Stoicism that Pliny held.
2.) One monster discussed was Pandae. The Pandae were unusual in their own way since they only had children once during their lifetime, they had eight fingers and toes, as well as white hair at birth that gradually darkens as they age. This monster represents Thesis IV, which is “The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference”. Pandae fits in this thesis because they strayed from the social norms multiple times.
1)From the chapter “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman states at the very end, “We must look to other characteristics of the late antique and medieval mind – characteristics that expressed themselves in errors of perception, but errors that were willful, poetic, and imaginative.” I find this quote interesting because it states how the “antique and medieval minds” of the ones who lived before us created these monsters that they believed to exist due to an error in perception. Just by simply not being able to see another person from a distance, thus the image of the person being blurred or distorted, people thought that what they saw was a monster. This quote gives us a window into the culture (and monsters) of ancient Greece and Rome because we can understand the thought processes of people back then. For some reason, people during the ancient times created monsters in order to fulfill their errors in perception.
2)One of the monsters defined by Pliny is the Androgini. The Androgini supposedly lived in Africa and had the genitals of both sexes. Using Cohen’s theses, the one that fits this monster best is Thesis IV: The Monster Dwells at the Gates of Difference. This thesis discusses how monsters are categorized by monstrous difference tending to be cultural, racial, or sexual. A monster with genitals of both sexes is definitely different sexually.
In the chapter, “The Plinian Races” written by John Block Friedman, there is one quote that sticks out to me from page six. It says “ Those who have truly dared to write periploi and wishing to persuade their readers, give names of places and numbers of stadia supposedly relating to regions and to barbarous peoples whose names indeed one cannot pronounce, seem to me to have surpassed in lying even Antiphanes of Braga.” This quote specifically caught my attention because this quote explains how writers decided on the different names of the monsters that they believed in and where they could be found. It leads me to believe that these writers might have over exaggerated their monsters in order to sell a better story to their readers. The quote can also be misleading because the one who said this quote, Marcianus of Heraclea, doesn’t believe that all of the names of these dangerous places are unreliable and are hard to believe they are actual places.
The monster that I chose to compare to one of Cohen’s theses was the Astomi. This monster was found in the eastern parts of India near the headwaters of the Ganges. They were mouthless men, who were covered in hair but wore clothes of soft cotton. Astomi lived by smell and couldn’t drink or eat, and were also referred to as the Apple-Smellers. The Astomi can be compared to thesis number 1; The Monster’s Body is A Cultural Body. I chose this thesis because this particular monster seems to represent a specific culture, since they cannot eat or drink, they only live off smell, and will die from a bad odor. The Astomi also can raise questions about what culture it actually represented then and who could potentially be afraid of this type of monster.
1)In the chapter “The Plinian Races,” John Block Friedman states on page eight “Thus Pliny’s method is often anecdotal. His Stoicism led him to believe that everything made by nature was intended to have a purpose…” I find this quote intriguing because this is something that I live by. What I feel is that everything that is on this Earth is intended to have a purpose and God created everything to fulfill a requirement in life. An example of this theory is the food chain. If just one animal were to disappear, it would make such an impact on the rest of the other animals in the food chain. This quote is a window into the culture (and monsters) of Greece and Rome because people back then felt that if they thought they saw a monster they believed it to be true due to everything in nature having some kind of purpose. If someone claimed to have seen a monster or creature, they immediately pronounced it true because it must serve some sort of purpose in nature.
2)One of the monsters Pliny points out is the Sciopods. The Sciopods were defined as being single-legged with a giant foot and they would lie on their backs in order to protect their heads from the sun. The thesis that can be applied to the Sciopods is Thesis III: The Monster Is the Harbinger of Category Crisis. This thesis discusses how the monsters body violates the laws of nature set by science, and in this case this monster clearly does.
1) The quote that I found the most interesting throughout this piece was one regarding the monster “Androgini” (30). The definition for them is “(“man-woman”). We learn from Pliny that these people who live in Africa, have the genitals of both sexes. As Isidore of Seville said of them, “They both inseminate and bear.” (30). I found this interesting because we do know that people can be born with characteristics of both sexes. I think the final description has the most meaning because it puts the person from being something grounded to something impossible. It shows that any sort of difference that a person had would get exaggerated to the point where it becomes unbelievable and in even some cases terrifying.
2) I would like to continue with the Monster called “Dragon” which are basically giant snakes and I would like to approach it from using Cohen’s 6th Thesis “The fear of the Monster is really a kind of desire” (16). I think this is interesting because he cites that the dragon was able to suck the blood from an Elephant and was eventually killed by the weight of the elephant. He also talks about how the dragon waits and lurks in water so it can prey on elephants and how even its smaller cousins can catch birds out of the sky no matter what speed. I just love this example because of how terrified Alexander the Great’s troops were when they first encountered elephants in battle that Pliny the Elder created these “Dragons” that would hunt and kill them but also manage to kill themselves in the process so that way the troops wouldn’t need to worry about them. He created the “Dragon” so that way he has the power to slay the enemy’s most powerful weapon.
1. The quote I chose was on page 8, “Contrasts among men fascinated him as well; he speaks of giants in his own day who attained a height of nine feet nine inches and then describes a dwarf only two feet high. these extremes do not disgust him as they might have done earlier Greek writers; he has a roman tolerance for and joy in human diversity and seems in book 7 to take a special pleasure in describing the monstrous races of men.”
I really like the quote I wrote above for the main reason for the last line, “pleasure in describing the ‘Monstrous’ races of men”, but he also stated that he was fascinated by it. By most definitions of a monster and being monstrous its meant to strike a strong emotion of fear disgust or other distasteful emotion in the beholder, but using this definition it’s used as a term to describe something different yet the same as any other.
2. in the Plin. Nat. 8.13 (I assumed that was book 8 chapters 13), We are told about the account of dragons. Stating with the chapter Juba speaks of dragons who have specific features such as a Crest on its head, and then Cuvier states that there was no crest on the head and that Juba must have been thinking of an animal in the Lacertus Genus. These two statements involve Thesus 3 were creatures who are considered monsters will not be able to fit in a specific classification. We get a clear example of this here as the “Dragon” was described in one specific way, then was discredited in another way. Showing full well that the Dragon might not be in any specific classification and will be interpreted however the person seems fit.
1. One quote that I found in the work, The Plinian Races, is a quote near the beginning of the article. Friedman says, “Tales of unusual men to be found far to the east of the Mediterranean world must have intrigued listeners even in Greek prehistory; they are well developed in Homer, whose hero Odysseus has seen many cities and known the minds of many men” (Page 1). Now, I feel like a lot of what is said just in this quote is very relatable to the lessons learned in the Seven Theses, by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. A lot of monsters for the people of Western Europe, were tales of fantastical or mutated people to the East, being either the Mediterranean like mentioned or perhaps farther East in Asian countries. And, like how the Seven Theses stated, people were very intrigued by these people, or monsters as they saw it, because they were so vastly different from themselves in their minds. I say that this would be mostly in their minds, because to a Greek person, an African would also be wildly different to them because of the dark coloration of their skin, but as people of the present know, the Genus of both races are still the same.
2. One monster that I think particularly relates to on of the Seven Theses, or at least how I interpret it, is the Astomi, or Apple-Smellers as they are called on page 11. They are mouth less men said by Pliny to be found in the eastern parts of India, near the Ganges river. They are men who have no mouths, and they collect the leaves of trees and they “live by smell”. I feel like this strongly relates to a quote contained in the fifth theses of the Seven Theses, where Cohen actually quotes another writer, Foucault, who says that, “the society of the panopticon, in which polymorphous conducts are actually extracted from people’s bodies and from their pleasures, to be drawn out, revealed, isolated, intensified, incorporated, by multifarious power devices” (page 14). The mouth less men described, are explained to live strictly by their sense of smell, because they cannot eat, and if they smell something bad, they will die. I think by taking away their mouths, they have made them into something monstrous, and by isolating this factor and making them live by their sense of smell, it makes them unnerving and an interesting monster described.
“The Plinian Races” The Greeks describe the people of Indica as Astomi. The Article describe the Astomi as individuals who only need the smell of flowers and apples to survive. This catches of my attention because it shows that one of the reasons why monsters exist. It is because of people going into the unknown and mystify others outside there circle because they are to scared of what is outside their bubble.
Robert Krulwich article shows us a Roman scholar who collected descriptions of creatures in the very edge of the world. One example is the Blemmyae, who has no head or neck and their face is on their chest. This again shows that one of the reason why monsters exist is because people fearing the places that are far away from their homeland. BRYAN LIANG
It was interesting to me how these people categorized different races or groups of people, and referred to them as monstrous races just because they were a little different. They went into so much depth trying to name and explain all of these different Plinian Races when they could have simply accepted the fact that they looked and acted different depending on where they lived because it is how they felt they needed to be, in order to survive in the world. A quote that fascinated me was “Pliny speaks of the Sciopods as Monocoli, transliterating the Greek word “one-legged,” but this name was misread as Monuloculus or “one-eyed” by Latin readers and was soon adapted to the descriptions of one-eyed beings like the classical Cyclops.” I think it is funny how the Greeks were trying to describe a group of people, and it was so misinterpreted by the Latin’s that they ended up “creating” a new monster that is still very well known today.
A monster that is mentioned by Pliny is a Cynocephali; a man with the head of a dog who communicated by barking and can also breathe fire. This was definitely one of the most bizarre of the creatures because it wasn’t fully human & also had the power to breathe fire. I believe this goes along with Cohen’s third theory, “The Monster is the Harbinger of Category Crisis.” Within this theory, Cohen states, “This refusal to participate in the classificatory ‘order of things’ is true of monsters generally: they are disturbing hybrids whose externally incoherent bodies resist attempts to include them in any systematic structuration.” These Cynocephali creatures isolate themselves from others by living in caves, and like many of these groups Pliny describes, mostly only accept one another in that group.
Part One: A quote that stood out to me from “The Plinian Races” reading was, “Errors of perception on the part of early travelers could be responsible for other fabulous peoples.” When explorers were going to new places, they formed their thoughts and opinions of people who inhabited those places while seeming to disregard the importance of characteristics or cultural practices. The thoughts and opinions that these travelers formed were based on the idea that they did not seem to understand the inhabitants of these places in the same sense that the people who lived there did. I believe that this is something to study because most travelers thought that the inhabitants of these places were savages, which meant that they lacked the same sort of manners that these travelers had, so this could bring forth the idea of if a particular race or ethnicity is monstrous because their views differ from another’s.
Part Two: I believe that Cohen’s idea of the fifth theses, “The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible” ties into the Donestre. The Donestre will pretend to speak the language of any traveler that they may come across and claim to know their relatives. They use the relativity to that traveler and the surprise that they get from that traveler to get closer to them before killing them.